Moving a Company Forward
Trucking is an industry that seems to attract the entrepreneur.
There have been many instances of individuals who with a truck or two, a phone and a desk, set out to build their own empire, and through hard work and sacrifice, grow and find success.
Bob Stark, the owner and founder of On-Time Express, Inc. of Livonia, Michigan is one such individual. With over twenty-five years in the transportation industry and with much of that time at the head of his own company, Stark has a wealth of knowledge and experiences to draw upon. He recently shared some of his thoughts and philosophies about not only his company but the expedite industry as well.
"The competition in expedite is the fiercest I've seen it in my years in the business," begins Stark. "There are some pretty big expedite companies out there who want to rule the world and sometimes it's hard for a smaller carrier to compete."
"Fortunately, we have a lot of loyal customers who will use us regardless of rates because they feel comfortable with calling us and don't mind paying a little more. I'd like to believe that they call us because we offer service they don't find elsewhere."
Stark says that a company is the sum of its parts and he gives credit to his staff and personnel for the growth of On Time Express: "Our dispatchers do care about the fleet and that's why I've kept them with me. I have dispatchers who have been with me for 5, 10 and even 15 years and that loyal, devoted service is a big part of our success."
"It's to my advantage and to the advantage of every driver in our company to have those caring, competent people in the office who understand what they're supposed to be doing. When a driver calls in, he doesn't have to give his unit number to be recognized, they know him by name."
He adds, "That's why we're looking for owner-operators who are as equally dedicated to running their business as we are to running ours. We want people who are company-focused, particularly during the busy times."
"And, who knows when the busy times will come? It changes from day to day, week to week. For the driver who wants to frequently take time off and then come back in service and say "I'm back, where's the work?' I have to tell him, 'Where were you when I was turning down loads because you weren't here?'"
Stark says that there are rewards for the driver who offers consistency and availability: "We've had some owner-operators come over to our company who have been with some of the major expediting carriers for a few years and they're amazed what they can make here."
On Time's owner says that he is always seeking owner-operators who can give him what he terms as "options" - specifically, larger vehicle sizes. He says that an owner-operator with a long-body Sprinter van or long cube van will take precedence over the smaller cargo van owner, because he's looking for the most freight hauling capability in any vehicle size. In straight trucks, Stark says his company is seeking 22' straight trucks and larger.
On Time Express has just welcomed a new company to its roster of customers and will be needing to expand its fleet of larger-size vans, cube vans and straight trucks.
Says Stark, "We have additional brokered freight now for all size trucks and our brokerage is going great guns."
"We're looking for experienced people, people who have been around the block and understand the ups and downs of this business. By the same token, it doesn't matter how much experiencce they have, if they don't have heart, I don't want 'em."
When we put an owner-operator on with our fleet, we expect it to be a long term relationship. Because we "hire" people for the long-term, we don't have turn over and we're very proud of that. If you don't care about your people, you shouldn't be in this industry. If you've got a guy in a truck in Minnesota freezing like an ice cube or in Louisiana cooking like a piece of bacon, you need to move them. I'm not going to have a truck just sitting where we don't have freight."
Stark continues, "We did around 3 million dollars in brokered freight last year and that is freight of all sorts, from cargo van to flatbed. Automotive freight has worked for us for over 15 years and we're not giving up on that type of freight. We have a great reputation with automotive accounts and out of another dozen carriers bidding on this latest account, we won."
Stark says that this new account represents an additional 20 loads a day. He remarks, 'Let's be honest, no one likes to run at discounted rates, but on the other hand, if a load takes you back to your starting point or to a better area, it's worth it. It's all about creating load opportunities."
"In some cases, we're operating as a cartage service and loading our trucks with multiple shipments for next-day delivery. Even if some of the shipments are discounted, it's well worth it for the driver if he heads out with 2, 3 or 4 loads for separate consignees.
"We have a different time frame for our customers. We tell them, 'Just let us know how quickly you need it and we'll charge accordingly."'
"I think that for the cargo van owner-operator, the Sprinter is the way to go. If you have a Sprinter, you're giving yourself a chance to make it in this industry."
"If you have a typical Ford or GM cargo van, I hate to say it but you're considered a "dime a dozen" truck. It's a truism that when people are laid off in other industries, they think to themselves, 'Hey, I can drive, and I hear expediting is a good business and I can get into a cargo van for not too much money.'"
"The state of the industry is, to say the least, shaky right now. The numbers are currently down around 25% and you have an abundance of cargo vans so an owner-operator has to be careful where he puts his truck(s) and how long he stays with that company. I think things will eventually get better but who knows when? When things do turn around, some companies that have survived will be well-positioned to succeed down the road."
Stark says that drivets who are domiciled in the Midwest or the Carolinas are in fertile expediting areas The new account alone has 45 plants nation-wide and should produce around a thousand loads every six months.
Because of operational area expansion. On-Time Express welcomes owner-operators from anywhere. Bob Stark also says that the solo driver can find a home with his company, but teams are a valuable asset as well.
On-Time Express Inc.